Suffolk fires head of ousted ethics panel

Alfred Lama, left, executive director of the Suffolk

Alfred Lama, left, executive director of the Suffolk Ethics Commission, at meeting at the Dennison building in Hauppauge with commissioners, Thomas Nolan, center, and Craig Tortora. (Oct. 19, 2010) (Credit: James Carbone)

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Alfred Lama, executive director of the shuttered Suffolk Ethics Commission, was told Tuesday that he, too, is out of a job, and Comptroller Joseph Sawicki said he is starting a review of Lama's time sheets.

County Attorney Dennis Cohen gave the news of his termination to Lama, a former State Supreme Court justice. Cohen said Lama's job was "effectively abolished" after the new local law abolishing the commission in favor of a new board took effect March 28, 90 days after it was filed with New York's Secretary of State.

"I spoke to him today after it came to my attention he should no longer be on the payroll," Cohen said. "I think he understood, though I don't know if he agreed."

Lama, 79, said he had "felt an obligation" to remain to send out the annual financial disclosure forms, which top county officials must file by May 15, and to help in the transition to the new board. Lama held the post seven years.

The new five-member ethics board is slated to replace the controversial three-member panel, which had been criticized for being unduly influenced by former County Executive Steve Levy. and review the past year of his time sheets to determine if problems that arose in an audit last year persist. "I will not pay him beyond March 28, the legal date his job became extinct," said Sawicki."There was no reason he should have shown up for work and if he did he did so at his own peril," Sawicki said. "No one can convince me a retired State Supreme Court judge does not know the law."

In an audit last year, Sawicki found Lama owes the county $22,894 for wages and benefits he did not earn because he worked part-time in a full-time job. The largest part of the finding was that Lama should have paid health premiums during weeks he worked less than 50 percent -- which occurred during 86 weeks of his tenure. Lama backers said he was considered management, but his position was a union job and he was a member of the county union affected by the rule. Lama disputes the findings and has not repaid the county. Sawicki said he is discussing a lawsuit with Cohen. Unsettled, however, is the fate of Lama's secretary, who was a non-Civil Service appointee. Cohen said she should also be out of a job, but he is concerned about leaving the commission without someone to answer phones. "It's still under review," he said.

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